Thomas County Central High School has announced top honors for the Class of 2015: its valedictorian, salutatorian, and honor graduates.
Emily Kornegay, 16, is valedictorian and Noah Harris, 17, is salutatorian. Also, 32 seniors are honor graduates.
“Being class valedictorian means that I’ve been given an opportunity to share a message with my classmates on one of the most important days of their lives,” Kornegay said. “That’s a big responsibility.”
Kornegay, the daughter of Dr. Dusty and Laura Kornegay, said she’s always been a “very competitive person,” and always strives “to learn as much as I can and work as efficiently as I can.”
“My parents have always been encouraging me and motivating me ever since I can remember,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be the best I can be so I’ve worked very hard. That being said, I was still surprised and excited just as anyone else would be!”
Kornegay and Harris have dated for more than year, and she admits there was friendly competition for the top spot.
“Of course there was competition,” she said. “It’s like jogging with your best friend; you want to stick together so you can share the same experiences, but you always want to be one inch ahead. We have definitely pushed each other to succeed in that fashion.”
Kornegay didn’t want to give away her speech topic, but said her message “applies to everyone, whether they are attending a college or university next fall or are starting work right away.”
“It’s important to me that everyone can get something from my speech so I will work to make it that way,” she said.
She will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology, majoring in Industrial Engineering. Kornegay intends to participate in internships to learn more about her career field’s opportunities.
“This honor will continue to motivate me to keep working to the best of my ability while at Tech,” she said.
Harris, 17, is the son of Shane and Saundra Harris.
“I have worked very hard the last couple of years to be in the top of my class, so I was hopeful that I would be named salutatorian,” he said.
He doesn’t feel any one thing got him to the salutatorian spot; he worked hard but also tried to enjoy his education experience.
“I am very intrinsically motivated, but I do not allow grades to be the sole focus of my education,” Harris said. “I try to truly learn and be engaged while I am in class.”
Receiving the recognition makes Harris proud of his dedication throughout high school and motivates him for future endeavors.
“Going forward, this recognition encourages me to continue to strive for success both academically and personally,” he said.
Harris is “a little nervous” but also excited to give a speech to his peers during graduation.
“I am excited because I have been given the opportunity to provide a message to my peers during a transition between two important life stages,” he said.
Harris will also attend the Georgia Institute of Technology, and plans to earn at least a master’s degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Honor graduates are: Amber Atkinson, Logan Beever, Margaret Bowden, Daezha Brooks, Rhonda Brown, Austin Bryant, Mikayla Fillyaw, Addison Frasch, Gerald Hallowell, Noah Harris, Anne-Marie Holland, Laura Hopper, Katie Johnson, Justin Knapp, Emily Kornegay, Charles Maggitas, Tessa McCorkle, Shelby Mitchell, Claude Owens, Logan Potter, Kelci Register, Bryana Scott, Amber Scott, Megan Shepherd, Elizabeth Smith, Lindsy Thompson, Angel Tran, Ryan Trull, Ashton Whaley, Lacey Williams, Tessa Winbigler and Kayla Winbigler.
Amber Atkinson, 17, said being an honor graduate has been “a huge goal” since she entered high school.
“It shows how hard I’ve worked throughout my high school career, and it means a great deal to me that my hard work is being recognized,” she said.
Atkinson plans to attend Georgia Southern University and earn a Bachelor of Science in Biology/Pre-Veterinary Medicine. Then, she plans to attend graduate school and become a veterinarian.
Ryan Trull, 17, said the recognition “feels great.”
“This is such a great honor,” he said. “I would have to say that my family is what drove me to work hard in school.
They have always supported me and pushed me forward.” He also encouraged other students to make an effort.
“The harder you work now affects how your life will be in the future,” Trull said. “Working hard equals success.”
Trull plans to attend Valdosta State University for its engineering studies program and wants to work in the computer engineering field.
Ashton Whaley, 18, said being named an honor graduate was worth the effort it took to get there. “I feel like going through all that hard work was worth it,” she said.
“I worked very hard for it, especially during senior year.”
She plans to attend Georgia College & State University and wants to pursue a career as a medical lab researcher.
Whaley also has some words of wisdom for her fellow graduates and high school students.
“Believe in yourself and never let anyone define your intelligence or worth,” she said.